Student Progress Ignored: An examination of California school districts’ compliance with the Stull Act

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Stull Act?

The Stull Act is state law found in the Education Code (Sections 44660 et seq.), which was originally signed into law in 1971 by Governor Ronald Reagan, and fine-tuned over the years by bipartisan legislation signed by Governors Brown, Deukmejian, Wilson, Davis and Schwarzenegger.  The Stull Act establishes minimum mandatory criteria and due process provisions to address human resource management of local school districts.

What does the Stull Act Do?

The Stull Act outlines requirements for governing boards to establish a uniform system of evaluation and assessment of the performance of all certificated personnel. Working with staff representatives, boards are directed to develop and adopt guidelines and procedures for evaluation. It outlines all of the applicable areas on which employees should be assessed, including: pupil progress, instructional techniques, adherence to curricular objectives, and maintaining a suitable learning environment. It also provides guidelines for assessing non-instructional personnel.

The remainder of the Stull Act outlines how and how often employees shall be evaluated. Specifically, it outlines procedures necessary to provide adequate employment protections to the evaluated employees. It also explains that an employee must be evaluated at least once each school year for probationary personnel, at least every other year for personnel with permanent status, and at least every five years for personnel with permanent status for over ten years.

The elements of the statute that this research focuses on are Education Code sections 44662(a)-44662(b)(1).

“(a) The governing board of each school district shall establish standards of expected pupil achievement at each grade level in each area of study. (b) The governing board of each school district shall evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to: (1) The progress of pupils toward the standards established pursuant to subdivision (a) and, if applicable, the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments.”

What does the research look at?

The research is aimed at answering a straightforward question, “Are California districts complying with the pupil progress elements of the Stull Act?” The key pupil progress components (Ed. Code §44662(a)-(b)(1)) of the Stull Act are straightforward – to be relevant and complete, evaluations of educators must include some information on how well the educator’s assigned students are actually learning toward grade level standards of expected achievement; and if a certificated staff member is identified as struggling, the district must endeavor to help the employee improve.

How did you determine if districts are out of compliance with the pupil progress component of the Stull Act?

The EdVoice Institute collected and reviewed almost 100 key documents from 26 districts for evidence of district policy or procedure intended to address these statutory requirements. Collective bargaining agreements (CBA) and evaluation forms were the most common demonstration of systemic adherence of the pupil progress requirement. The analysis looked for prompts within the evaluation forms used to determine if or how the evaluated personnel contributed to the progress of pupils toward standards. It also reviewed if there was direct reference to these Stull Act requirement in the evaluation articles in a district’s CBA.

To fully comply with the law, evaluation forms and CBAs were assessed to see if either met both requirements of the Stull Act, i.e. the progress of pupils toward the established standards pursuant to (a) of California Education Code §44662 and the progress of pupils towards state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments, if applicable. The full breakdown of the analysis can be found in Appendix C of the report.

What school Districts were reviewed?

This study looked at 26 school districts, representing most of California’s largest districts. A full list of the districts with relevant demographic information can be found in Appendix B. The 26 school districts selected for this sample are:

What were some key findings?

The majority of districts do not formally address whether or not students are learning when considering the job performance of the students’ teacher. 19 of 26 districts have evaluation forms that do not address either of the pupil progress requirements of the Stull Act. And only two districts, Sweetwater and Clovis, address both pupil progress requirements in their evaluation forms.

In regards to mentioning pupil progress components of the Stull Act in their CBAs, four districts make reference to both pupil progress components, fifteen districts don’t address either pupil progress requirement, and two Districts, Upland Unified School District and San Ramon Valley Unified School District, explicitly prohibit the use of specified measures of student progress in the evaluation of their certificated employees.  

Please see Appendix C of the report for more information on our analysis of the evaluation forms and CBAs.

Almost all of the teachers assessed in the sample of completed teacher evaluation forms were determined to meet standards. Of 1,947 randomly selected redacted evaluation forms reviewed, 98% met standards overall.  Yet, most of those included no meaningful information about how the students in that teacher’s classroom were performing. In one district, 100% of teachers reviewed were rated as meeting standards but only 4% of the evaluations included any mention of pupil progress.

Why does this matter?

Research has shown that effective teaching is the most important in-school influence on a student’s success. As noted above, there is not a connection between the ratings certificated personnel receive and how students are actually doing in the classroom. Without mentioning pupil progress in the evaluation process, we do not know how students are progressing or whether an effective teacher is teaching them. Furthermore, without being able to identify educators whose efforts are not adequately contributing to pupil progress, the districts cannot identify and provide the mandated supports necessary to help them improve.

The prevalence of educator evaluations with no meaningful information about actual student progress also raises serious questions about key state and local personnel management laws and policies, including earning permanent status, assigning teachers to schools and classrooms, modified salary schedules, or effective staff development.  

What can state policymakers do about this?

In 2015 and beyond, the Legislature and the State Board of Education have an obligation to ensure the State of California protects the fundamental right of every child to have an equitable opportunity to learn and receive a basic education from an effective teacher, each school year of his or her academic career. The first thing state legislators can do is to look at the school districts in their area and ask these important questions, “Are they complying with the pupil progress requirements of the Stull Act?” In addition, in the coming year, there are several opportunities and levers for the State to meet this obligation, including:

• Budget control language with compliance provisos tied to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and adopting strong standards for evaluation of Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs);

•State Board of Education policy requiring that LEAs demonstrate compliance with all pupil progress elements of the Stull Act when requesting consent waivers from any requirements of the Education Code, and indicate status of implementation of compliant evaluations when considering waivers for discussion;

•The Controller, Department of Education and Department of Finance revising the Audit Guide to include review of compliance with pupil progress requirements of the Stull Act to hold local education agencies accountable for meeting this legal obligation, particularly when considering any audit appeals; and

What can local leaders, teachers, parents, and students do about this?

Parents, students, teachers, and school and community leaders can first look at their own district’s practices to see if they are complying with the pupil progress requirements of the Stull Act. And if they aren’t, come together to demand that student learning no longer be ignored in evaluations. This can happen during regular school board meetings, during local budget discussions, and through the stakeholder process of the annual LCAP update.